FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady missed nearly an entire season with torn knee ligaments. Peyton Manning was sidelined all last season by neck surgery and nerve damage that weakened his throwing arm.
That might have been the beginning of the end for lesser quarterbacks.
Not for Brady and Manning, winners of four Super Bowls and six MVP awards between them.
They’ll renew their long-running competition on Sunday one week after their outstanding performances in the latest of their many victories. Brady’s only team, the New England Patriots, will host Manning’s new team, the Denver Broncos. Both are 2-2.
“You’re looking at two of the best quarterbacks to play over the last decade,” Denver coach John Fox said. “Without a doubt, when their careers are over — hopefully not any time soon for either one of them — they’ll be first-ballot Hall of Fame players.”
Brady, 35, has said he wants to play into his 40s. Manning, 36, hasn’t been as specific but shows no signs of wanting to stop.
Not long ago, though, Manning’s future was cloudy. On Sept. 8, 2011 he underwent spinal fusion surgery, the fourth operation on his neck in 19 months.
“I went through the entire rehab process and saw doctors and if the doctor had advised me not to play, then I would not play,” Manning said. “I certainly didn’t need a year off to re-emphasize how much I enjoy playing.”
And he’s playing very well after leaving the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent.
In last Sunday’s 37-6 win over the Oakland Raiders, Manning completed 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. For the season, he’s connected on 64.7 percent of his passes for 1,162 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
“Looks real good, as he always does,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I don’t think anybody that we play against is any better in terms of recognizing what the defense is in and where they’re weak and vulnerable and how to get to plays that hurt it.”